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The Great War
1914 - 1918
Compiled by John Silby
November 2010
Rocky Hill War Memorial stands high above the city of Goulburn, New South Wales. It was built in 1925 to
honour the men an...
The war began at the end of July 1914, and continued
relentlessly until November 11, 1918.
The conflict involved all of th...
By the end of the war, Germany had been defeated.
The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires had
been defeated and carved up...
For troops of both sides, conditions on and off the
battlefield seem to have been horrendous, especially
during the winter...
When the troops went home, those who were left
behind - who were already home - had to face the
enormous task of rebuildin...
yet those payments covered only the obvious costs.
There was also an inestimable hidden toll, and the
effects of that - ve...
For much of the war on the Western Front, troops
were bogged down in trenches. The enemy was
sometimes only a few metres a...
The majority of these photos are British and
Australian simply because they were easier to find.
Ultimately it doesn’t mat...
In the trenches
The front line
British infantry wait in a support trench during preliminary bombardment
A British trench on the Western Front, 1916
Knife-rest barbed wire defences, Somme district, France
Deserted trenches outside the ruins of Montfaucon, France
A German pillbox, in surroundings typical of the Ypres salient, Belgium
Looking out from the entrance of a captured pillbox on to the shell-ravaged battlefield
A road on the battlefield, Westhoek region
Infantry marching ahead in a single line to the front, Westhoek region
British guns advancing through a wood
Battleground conditions on the Western Front
Behind the front line
Sniping enemy planes with a Lewis gun
Hoisting the large shell into the breech
After the battle: the German trench road near Loos, France
Destroyed German trenches at Passchendaele, Belgium
Destroyed German trenches at Poelcappelle, Belgium
German trenches churned by British shells
Destroyed German observation post, Mametz Wood, France
Carrying in the wounded during the height of the battle
A Western Front battlefield road from a British dressing station
British and French soldiers killed by German gas attack on Hill 60, near Zwarteleen, Belgium
Corpse-strewn battlefield near Cambrai, France
German dead on sunken road near Moislains, France
German dead covering a battlefield, Champagne region, France
Dead British stretcher bearers, Péronne, France
Dead Russian medic
British Soldiers clearing ruins and making a road, Contalmaison, France
Australian working party, Voormezeele, Belgium, August 1917
Entire cities and villages along the Western Front lie in heaps of ruins
British patrol moving through a ruined village
Bailleul, France, 1918
Damage at Verdun, France
Destroyed railway, Albert, France
The ruined railway station, Guillemont, France
The ruins of the High Street, Guillemont, France
Mine crater in the main street of La Basse, France
Ruins of the village of Farbus, France, captured by the Canadians
Ruins of Vaux, France
Ruins of Vraignes, France
Ruins of Ypres, Belgium
Ruins of the Cloth Hall, the cathedral and bishop's palace, Ypres, Belgium
Destruction at Dixmude, Belgium
Destruction in Fismes, France
French prime minister Georges Clemenceau (right) walking through the ruined streets of Noyon, France
Ruins of Louvain, Belgium
Ruins of Clermont, France
Ruins of Mametz, France
Ruins of Misery, France
Ruins of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Arras, France
Ruins at Longwy, France
View of the ruins of Thiepval, France
A view of Fricourt, France, showing the smashed up remains after the British bombardment
Battle-scarred sentinels
A road lined with shattered trees, France
Australian soldiers passing through Chateau Wood, near Hooge in the Ypres salient, Belgium, 1917
Limbers carrying up ammunition at sunset
Infantry moving forward to take over the front at evening
The dawn of Passchendaele
I knew a simple soldier boy...
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled ear...
The Great War
1914 - 1918
Some of the photos were taken by Australian photographer Capt Frank Hurley
The National Library of Australia has published...
Rocky Hill War Memorial and Museum
First World War
Triple Entente
Central Powers
Map of European Alliances 1914
Soviet Uni...
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The great war

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A presentation highlighting the destruction caused in Belgium and Northern France by the First World War

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  1. 1. The Great War 1914 - 1918 Compiled by John Silby November 2010
  2. 2. Rocky Hill War Memorial stands high above the city of Goulburn, New South Wales. It was built in 1925 to honour the men and women from the area who served in the first world war. It gives great views over the town in every direction. When I visited in 1985 I was moved by a display of large photos of the aftermath of World War 1 in Belgium and northern France. The utter destruction depicted was breathtaking, and it had a profound effect on me. If ever there was evidence of the futility of war, I thought, this was it. I’ve remembered those photos from time to time over the years, always with the same response. A few days ago I decided to search online to see if I could find similar images. What I found inspired this presentation. It’s not my intention to impose my convictions on anyone; I think these photos tell a story that’s worth sharing. The Great War was so named because it was thought it would be the war to end all wars. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case, and it seems mankind still hasn’t learned.
  3. 3. The war began at the end of July 1914, and continued relentlessly until November 11, 1918. The conflict involved all of the world's great powers in two opposing alliances: the Allies (France and the British and Russian Empires) and the Central Powers (the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria). About 70 million military personnel were involved and around nine million of those were killed. It is estimated that eight million civilians were killed. INTRODUCTION
  4. 4. By the end of the war, Germany had been defeated. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires had been defeated and carved up into smaller states. Russia had been defeated by German and Austrian forces, and the 1917 revolution and later civil war led to the emergence of the Soviet Union - the world’s first communist state. The League of Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. However, European nationalism ignited by the war and the break-up of empires, together with the repercussions of Germany's defeat led to the beginning of World War II in 1939.
  5. 5. For troops of both sides, conditions on and off the battlefield seem to have been horrendous, especially during the winters. The relentless slog with little progress was surely frustrating and demoralising. For those who returned, the death and devastation they witnessed must have had a lasting effect. For the local people, the constant bombardment must have been nerve-wracking, and the destruction of their villages, homes and fields heart-breaking. For everyone, the sudden silence as hostilities ended would have sounded eerie. Perhaps it even seemed too good to be true.
  6. 6. When the troops went home, those who were left behind - who were already home - had to face the enormous task of rebuilding their lives and communities. In France alone... • 300,000 houses, 6,000 factories, 1,500 schools and 1,200 churches were destroyed. • over 20,000 km2 of farmland was laid waste and 1.3 million livestock were lost. • nearly 5,000 km2 of forest was laid waste. The Allies demanded huge sums in reparations (Germany paid its last instalment in October 2010),
  7. 7. yet those payments covered only the obvious costs. There was also an inestimable hidden toll, and the effects of that - veterans’ and survivors’ benefits, lost production, lost breadwinners, and scarred lives, for example - continue today. In some places a whole generation of young men was wiped out. In a sense the war continues today, too. More than 90 years on, burial sites are still coming to light. Authorities go to great lengths to identify the bodies, and where they are successful families can finally put to rest their missing loved ones. Freshly ploughed fields continue to turn up ammunition and other artefacts. Trenches and craters can still be seen.
  8. 8. For much of the war on the Western Front, troops were bogged down in trenches. The enemy was sometimes only a few metres away. In October 1914 the Front stretched for 750 km. Artillery bombardment reduced villages to rubble and left craters in roads and fields. Woods were pounded to splinters, leaving only bare, broken trunks standing. In wet weather fields and trenches became seas of mud, and roads turned to slush from the heavy traffic of men, horses and equipment. THE PHOTOS
  9. 9. The majority of these photos are British and Australian simply because they were easier to find. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who caused the destruction… the end result was the same. The captions are pretty much as I found them. Some are repetitious, and it’s easy to imagine the photographer sighing, “Another day, another ruin.” It seems the photographers’ instinct for a good shot survived, however, even in the midst of the mayhem. Some of the photos, in contrast to the “workaday” nature of most of the others, depict an awesome, harsh, raw kind of beauty.
  10. 10. In the trenches
  11. 11. The front line
  12. 12. British infantry wait in a support trench during preliminary bombardment
  13. 13. A British trench on the Western Front, 1916
  14. 14. Knife-rest barbed wire defences, Somme district, France
  15. 15. Deserted trenches outside the ruins of Montfaucon, France
  16. 16. A German pillbox, in surroundings typical of the Ypres salient, Belgium
  17. 17. Looking out from the entrance of a captured pillbox on to the shell-ravaged battlefield
  18. 18. A road on the battlefield, Westhoek region
  19. 19. Infantry marching ahead in a single line to the front, Westhoek region
  20. 20. British guns advancing through a wood
  21. 21. Battleground conditions on the Western Front
  22. 22. Behind the front line
  23. 23. Sniping enemy planes with a Lewis gun
  24. 24. Hoisting the large shell into the breech
  25. 25. After the battle: the German trench road near Loos, France
  26. 26. Destroyed German trenches at Passchendaele, Belgium
  27. 27. Destroyed German trenches at Poelcappelle, Belgium
  28. 28. German trenches churned by British shells
  29. 29. Destroyed German observation post, Mametz Wood, France
  30. 30. Carrying in the wounded during the height of the battle
  31. 31. A Western Front battlefield road from a British dressing station
  32. 32. British and French soldiers killed by German gas attack on Hill 60, near Zwarteleen, Belgium
  33. 33. Corpse-strewn battlefield near Cambrai, France
  34. 34. German dead on sunken road near Moislains, France
  35. 35. German dead covering a battlefield, Champagne region, France
  36. 36. Dead British stretcher bearers, Péronne, France
  37. 37. Dead Russian medic
  38. 38. British Soldiers clearing ruins and making a road, Contalmaison, France
  39. 39. Australian working party, Voormezeele, Belgium, August 1917
  40. 40. Entire cities and villages along the Western Front lie in heaps of ruins
  41. 41. British patrol moving through a ruined village
  42. 42. Bailleul, France, 1918
  43. 43. Damage at Verdun, France
  44. 44. Destroyed railway, Albert, France
  45. 45. The ruined railway station, Guillemont, France
  46. 46. The ruins of the High Street, Guillemont, France
  47. 47. Mine crater in the main street of La Basse, France
  48. 48. Ruins of the village of Farbus, France, captured by the Canadians
  49. 49. Ruins of Vaux, France
  50. 50. Ruins of Vraignes, France
  51. 51. Ruins of Ypres, Belgium
  52. 52. Ruins of the Cloth Hall, the cathedral and bishop's palace, Ypres, Belgium
  53. 53. Destruction at Dixmude, Belgium
  54. 54. Destruction in Fismes, France
  55. 55. French prime minister Georges Clemenceau (right) walking through the ruined streets of Noyon, France
  56. 56. Ruins of Louvain, Belgium
  57. 57. Ruins of Clermont, France
  58. 58. Ruins of Mametz, France
  59. 59. Ruins of Misery, France
  60. 60. Ruins of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Arras, France
  61. 61. Ruins at Longwy, France
  62. 62. View of the ruins of Thiepval, France
  63. 63. A view of Fricourt, France, showing the smashed up remains after the British bombardment
  64. 64. Battle-scarred sentinels
  65. 65. A road lined with shattered trees, France
  66. 66. Australian soldiers passing through Chateau Wood, near Hooge in the Ypres salient, Belgium, 1917
  67. 67. Limbers carrying up ammunition at sunset
  68. 68. Infantry moving forward to take over the front at evening
  69. 69. The dawn of Passchendaele
  70. 70. I knew a simple soldier boy... Who grinned at life in empty joy, Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, And whistled early with the lark. In winter trenches, cowed and glum, With crumps and lice and lack of rum, He put a bullet through his brain. And no one spoke of him again. You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye Who cheer when soldier lads march by, Sneak home and pray you’ll never know The hell where youth and laughter go. [Crumps: the noise made by shells falling in soft earth | Kindling: shining or enthusiastic] Suicide in the Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon
  71. 71. The Great War 1914 - 1918
  72. 72. Some of the photos were taken by Australian photographer Capt Frank Hurley The National Library of Australia has published his war diary online: My diary, official War Photographer Commonwealth Military Forces,from 21 August 1917 to 31 August 1918Flanders - France - Lon He writes in considerable detail about conditions on and off the battlefield and gives a fascinating first-hand account of what it was like to be there. He describes life in the trenches and dugouts, and the sights, sounds and feel of the conflict. He talks about the “awfulness” of the battlefield, and his voice, through his writing, complements and reinforces the story told by the photos. The State Library of NSW has an album of his wartime photos online: An Exhibition of war photographs taken by Capt. F. Hurley, August 1917-August 1918 [click on link to open site in your browser] SPECIAL NOTE
  73. 73. Rocky Hill War Memorial and Museum First World War Triple Entente Central Powers Map of European Alliances 1914 Soviet Union First World War French property losses First World War casualties The Great War in Numbers Germany Closes Book on World War I With Final Reparations Payment Photos of The Great War: Death and Destruction World War One Photo Archive The Heritage of the Great War (includes a gallery of German photos) Suicide in the Trenches [click on link to open site in your browser] ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
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